To Heck with You Georgia, to Heck and Beyond

As a fan of the Florida Gators, you’re afforded many rights this week. Among those is the right to tell Georgia exactly where you think it should go, or be banished to. You can also ask them if they’d like to bite something in particular. The options are really endless for it is Florida-Georgia week and the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party has arrived. (We’re not supposed to call it that, but our goal should be to ensure the moniker lives on with future generations.)

Florida Georgia Football

Your mind will be emblazoned with images of Brandon Spikes playing the role of Top Piece of Bread in the Spikes-Knowshon Moreno-ground sandwich, and it should be. There are moments that live with us forever and that is one of them. Another is the one of those damn dancing Dawgs in what we are required by University of Florida law to call a classless and utterly inappropriate display of arrogance. To take us back to positive images, I must quickly mention that Mohamed Massaquoi is still afraid of Reggie Nelson (REGGIE F’ING NELSON!).

Saturday is a date with destiny that isn’t. More was expected of both the Gators and the Bulldogs, but less has occurred for a variety of reasons. Injuries can be blamed and are the easy way out. Blaming injuries gives us comfort because it means our team doesn’t have offensive issues, wasn’t overrated to begin the season, and doesn’t have questions at various coaching positions. It means that a few very unfortunate circumstances led to 4-3 and the losses can be blamed on the absence of a key player or two or three or seven.

Quick side-note relating to records and not injuries: six of the seven teams in the SEC East are currently on losing streaks (including first-place Missouri). Look across the standings and you will see that six of the seven SEC West teams are currently on winning streaks. The lone West team on a losing streak is last-place Arkansas. Hey, the Gators beat them! YAY!

Moving past the injuries, we get to the issue of offense. No, we don’t. Let’s move right past that because we’ve talked about it all before here, here, and here. I don’t know how much more of it I can stomach and I can only imagine that you all are in the same boat. We need offense. We don’t need it next season. We don’t even need it next week. We need it now, or else the Bulldogs of Georgia will chew us up, spit us out, and end zone dance to an easy victory.

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Jeff Demps Signs With New England Patriots

The trend of Bill Belichick picking up Florida Gators is continuing Friday. Jeff Demps – the Gators’ former speedster – decided to sign with the Patriots after much interest in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Demps will join his former teammates Jermaine Cunningham, Aaron Hernandez and Brandon Spikes in New England. The Patriots look to be Super Bowl contenders again after losing to the New York Giants last year. Demps should be used in many ways by the offensive mastermind that is Belichick and his speed will fit well on an already quick roster.

It’s unlikely that Demps has been chosen to replace Wes Welker at the slot position obviously because of the wide skill gap, but Demps should play some roles in the receiving game.

Bill Belichick should find some ways to use Demps that we never had imagined, and it will be interesting to watch Demps in his transition back from track to football.

2013 Football Recruiting: Tyrone Crowder Could Bring More North Carolina Talent To Florida

The state of a North Carolina has been good to the Florida Gators football program in recent years. Very good in fact. North Carolina has given the Gators Brandon Spikes, Xavier Nixon and newcomers Jonathan Bullard, D.J. Humphries, Rhaheim Ledbetter and Alex McCalister, who have opened the pipeline down to the Sunshine State. Tyrone Crowder – a star offensive guard in the 2013 recruiting class – could keep it open.

Crowder has 15 offers and has mostly focused on schools in his home state. However, the 6’2″, 325-guard from Richmond Senior (Rockingham, NC) is also considering both Florida and Alabama and has a connection of sorts to the Gators – new strength and conditioning coach Jeff Dillman played at Richmond. That may not be enough to push Crowder to Florida (he hasn’t even narrowed his list down to his finalists at this point), but connections never hurt when it comes to recruiting and if the Gators can find one inroad, that could be enough in the end.

Crowder plays tackle at Richmond, but projects as a guard at the college level. He’s known to have quick feet and is a tenacious blocker with a mean streak. 247Sports, Rivals, Scout and ESPN all give Crowder four stars. He peaks on 247 as their No. 54 overall player in the 2013 class. He plans to narrow down his list of choices to his top five over the next couple of weeks.

As If You Need More Reasons To Dislike Former Florida Gators Head Coach Urban Meyer

Yesterday brought us this – an article by Matt Hayes of the Sporting News exposing the real Florida Gators under former head coach Urban Meyer. For some, it was shocking. For most, it was on par with many of the rumors we’ve heard over the last few years. For all, it put another item (or two, or three) under “Cons” on the list of our thoughts about Meyer.

I’m not a Meyer supporter – although some would paint me as such – I just choose to remember certain things. That selective memory is because of a desire to be happy for certain things that occurred while not wasting the time to be upset about other things that can’t be changed. If the article by Hayes is true and former Florida defensive back Bryan Thomas is telling us what really happened under Meyer, so be it. It doesn’t make me proud as a fan by any means, but I’m also much more interested in discussing Will Muschamp and season two under the man we currently refer to as the head coach.

What I do choose to remember and bask in when it comes to Meyer are the two national championships and the athletes we had a chance to witness – Tim Tebow, Percy Harvin and Brandon Spikes to name a few. I don’t know if there was preferential treatment for those three and the other Gators stars during Meyer’s tenure, but it wouldn’t surprise me if there was. That’s not an admission that I believe it’s right, it’s just a statement that, again, those rumors have been present well before Monday when the article was posted.

What the article does provide is justification – justification to those Florida fans that no longer consider Meyer a friend. Gators fans are a passionate bunch and among that passion will be certain feelings for not only Meyer, but also Steve Spurrier and any other coach or player that ever spent a day in The Swamp. What they choose to celebrate or condemn is their choice and they should be proud of whatever stance they take. My stance just happens to be one of the now and not the past.

That doesn’t mean I believe the arrests are justified in any way and it doesn’t mean I will go home today and dust off my Urban Meyer shrine. It simply means I don’t treat Monday as a groundbreaking day in the history of the Florida Gators football program. It keeps my feelings right about where they were when Meyer was named the head coach of the Ohio State Buckeyes, which is somewhere between “meh” and “sigh.”

Meyer’s tenure will be discussed at length for years to come. It will probably even be summed up by many just as Thomas did when asked to comment for the article:

“As far as coaching, there’s no one else like (Meyer); he’s a great coach. He gets players to do things you never thought you could do. But he’s a bad person.” – Bryan Thomas, Former Florida Gators Defensive Back

That may be accurate and, if you believe the article and the rumors you’ve surely heard, you probably don’t doubt it. I don’t either, but I am continuing to look forward more than I’m looking back. For your own sanity, I recommend you try to do the same.

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Former Florida Gators To Play On World’s Grandest Stage

The world will be captivated by tonight’s Super Bowl matchup between the New England Patriots and New York Giants. Sure to be one of the most widely viewed events across the planet, the Pats and Giants will do battle to determine which team will go home with the Lombardi Trophy. It’s a dream come true for many players to even be able to participate in the Super Bowl, but to win one is something completely different. Among those searching for a ring will be a few former Florida Gators.

In 2010, the Patriots decided it best to fill their roster with practically as many Gators as they could draft. In the second round of that year’s NFL Draft, New England selected defensive end/outside linebacker Jermaine Cunningham and inside linebacker Brandon Spikes. The Pats would look back at Florida in the fourth round and take tight end Aaron Hernandez. That same year, New England would also sign former Gators defensive end/defensive tackle Gerard Warren. All four remained part of the roster into the 2011 season and three are expected to be big contributors tonight (Cunningham struggled to find a spot in the defensive rotation during the regular season and was put on injured reserve on December 10, 2011).

Not to be left out, the Giants have a former Gator as well. Signed as an undrafted free agent before the 2011 season, defensive end Justin Trattou made the roster and is listed as active. With Jason Pierre-Paul, Osi Umenyiora and Justin Tuck also on the roster, Trattou’s time has been extremely limited during his rookie season. We don’t expect to see Trattou on the field during Sunday’s game, but just being there as an undrafted rookie free agent will be an experience for the former Florida player.

If you don’t have a routing interest in tonight’s game, cheer for the Gators. Each one will be looking for their first (and hopefully not their last) Super Bowl ring.

2012 Football Recruiting: Florida Gators Add Alex McCalister; Defensive End Verbally Commits

The train started on Saturday with the commitments of 2012 defensive end Brian Cox Jr. and 2013 running back Adam Lane and continued into Monday with the announcement of 2012 defensive end Alex McCalister. McCalister becomes the seventh defensive line commitment the Gators have picked up and the second in three days to be considered a fit for the buck position.

McCalister – listed at 6’7″, 212 pounds – chose Florida over Georgia Tech and North Carolina. He will have to add considerable bulk before he’ll see significant playing time in a Gators’ uniform, but his quickness off the line makes him an intriguing prospect. Out of Clemmons, North Carolina (West Forsyth), McCalister becomes the latest in a line of recent recruits from the state of North Carolina to commit to Florida. There are three others in the 2012 class alone – Jonathan Bullard, D.J. Humphries, Rhaheim Ledbetter – Xavier Nixon will be back in a Gators’ uniform this upcoming season and we can’t forget about Brandon Spikes.

McCalister makes it 20 commitments for Florida with more to come as National Signing Day approaches.

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Terron Sanders Works Hard To Make It In The NFL

When the class you‘re a part of also includes Riley Cooper, Jermaine Cunningham, Marcus Gilbert, Percy Harvin, Brandon Spikes, and some guy named Tim Tebow, it’s easy to get lost among the stars. Terron Sanders was a member of one of the greatest recruiting classes of all time, but much may have not been expected of him.

Rated as a four-star prospect by Rivals, Sanders was hardly untalented, but those names above overshadowed many and injuries didn’t help his case. Sanders played on one game during his senior year of high school and followed that up with a number of injuries – some serious – during his time at Florida. It wasn’t easy going for the defensive tackle, but he was able to appear in 43 games for the Gators and played well when healthy.
NFL scouts may not have thought he played well enough to be drafted though, but that’s not the only path to the top league. Sanders was signed by the Baltimore Ravens and is currently working to make their roster. It will be a tough road for the former Gator, but one he’s taking and not giving up on.

Recruit Report: Rhaheim Ledbetter, S, Crest

The latest recruit report is up at Alligator Army and this one highlights the most recent Florida commit. Safety Rhaheim Ledbetter committed to the Gators on Friday, which was neither a surprise or a shock.

Many expected Brandon Spikes’s little cousin to join the Gators one day and Friday was the day. There is still a little concern over the rumored “package deal” he is with high school teammate Jonathan Bullard, but for now (and according to him, for good) Ledbetter is a member of the Florida program.
Ledbetter is a hard-hitting safety who despite his love for blowing up wide receivers still has an intelligence for the game. He sticks to his assignments and makes the smart play while making those coming across the middle fear him. While the Gators have more than enough depth at defensive back, you have to welcome a player of Ledbetter’s skill set.
Florida is off to a furious pace when it comes to recruiting at this point in the summer. Keep your fingers crossed that this continues as the season starts.

The Bull Gator (3/18/10)

Florida’s pro day has come and gone and the new and improved Tim Tebow was on display.  Scouts believe Tebow has worked well on his release and his footwork and probably improved his draft stock.  He keeps the ball higher when he drops back and is getting rid of it quicker, but Tebow still has a tendency to drop it before he makes a throw.  He’s getting there though and a number of coaches were impressed with the former Gator quarterback.  Two other former Florida defenders improved their draft stocks as well as both blazed through the 40-yard-dash.  Cornerback Joe Haden may have solidified himself as a top 10 pick with times of 4.39 and 4.41.  Many thought Haden would drop in the draft after posting a 4.57 at the NFL Combine, but that time doesn’t seem important now that he has shown what he can really do.  Carlos Dunlap also impressed with times of 4.57 and 4.59.  Great times for someone with his size.  Dunlap warrants a good, long look from anyone picking in the first round.  The only former Gator that didn’t seem to really help himself on Wednesday was Brandon Spikes.  Spikes didn’t run very fast, although I’m not sure if many expected him to, but is still seen as a special talent.  He could definitely be a case of someone who plays much faster than he runs in drills.
As expected, Urban Meyer is back as the head coach of the Florida Gators.  After a vacation or leave of absence of sorts (we should really call it a scaling back of involvement), Meyer is back in the driver’s seat and feeling well.  He won’t mention much about his health other than to say he’s doing fine.  And we shouldn’t expect him to comment on it too much anytime soon.  Meyer is tight-lipped about his health and he should be.  At this point in spring practice, Meyer takes on more of an observatory role.  This time of year gives him a chance to see how his assistant coaches interact with players and how all of the new faces get acclimated to the Gators’ system.  Many seem to think 2010 will be a transition year for Florida, but Meyer believes there is still plenty of talent in Gainesville and the Gators will be ready to compete in the fall.
SI.com’s Andy Staples shared his thoughts on the upcoming season in the SEC.  Among them was a belief that the East could be a little more open than the past few years.  While I will admit Florida will be entering a period of adjustment, the level of talent and coaching staff should assure the Gators won’t exactly get off track either.  One interesting point Staples makes about Florida is that the Gators need to find a way to get four – count ‘em, four – linebackers on the field at once.  There were rumors of Florida converting to a 3-4 defense when George Edwards was the coordinator (Everyone remember that week? Fun times!).  But Edwards left and was replaced – if you can call it that – by Teryl Austin who has mentioned there will be a few tweaks although he won’t overhaul the defense Charlie Strong perfected.  With the talent at linebacker, he may have to change more than he planned though.  Brandon Hicks and A.J. Jones have plenty of experience and should see the field a lot, but Austin won’t be able to keep Jon Bostic or Jelani Jenkins on the bench either.  I can’t be the only one drooling at the thought of Bostic and Jenkins on the field at the same time.
B.J. Daniels’ recently repaired non-throwing shoulder won’t keep him out of spring practice after all.  The USF quarterback will be doing pretty much everything during practice except taking hits.  You probably don’t want your starting QB, and the only one with any substantial experience, taking too many hits this far ahead of the season anyway.  Being able to do basically everything else will be extremely beneficial for Daniels as he learns the offense under new head coach Skip Holtz.  Daniels is still developing as a quarterback and a leader and this spring is really his chance to step and take over the Bulls’ offense.  Exciting things are coming and hopefully fans won’t have to wait too much longer for that first Big East championship season.
The List: I’ve given up attempting to come up with some catchy name for this.  Sometimes simplicity is the way to go.  So it’s The List.  Nothing fancy or memorable.  Sort of like the list itself.  Today’s list focuses on that man who improved his throwing motion.  Clip #1 is a quick shot of that new motion that’s all the rage.  It’s just a glimpse, but maybe you X and O junkies can fully appreciate what has changed.
1. The new, improved Tim Tebow.

2. No list would be complete without the pledge.
3. A little practice Tebow.
4. The ad the world lost its mind about.
5. Tebow vs. Eric Berry. Surprised existence didn’t end after this collision.
The Sixth Man: Despite losing to NC State in the first round of the NIT, we have to give a big round of applause to the USF men’s basketball team for the season they just completed.  It’s easy to assume nothing out of the Bulls.  Since the move to the Big East, they’re just not expected to compete.  The size of the school should allow USF to build something over time and have a decent season now and then, but I’m not sure if anyone really saw this season as being the one in which they broke out.  At times, there were serious talks about the Bulls possibly making the NCAA Tournament.  As you know, they didn’t.  But an NIT appearance shouldn’t be seen as a letdown.  This program is headed in the right direction under Stan Heath and if Dominique Jones returns, the Big Dance could definitely be in sight for next season.  Watching the Bulls improve over the course of this season was exciting and has fans actually looking forward to the future.  Good job men, you should be proud.